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MPs urge greater public say over fracking works

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MPs have urged the government to increase public involvement in the planning stages of fracking works.

The Commons housing, communities and local government committee has proposed several reforms which give greater powers to local authorities and the general public.

The committee has also said that a “one-stop-shop” for fracking guidelines as well as a single regulatory body should be set up to deal with public and industry enquiries.

“Given the contentious nature of fracking, local communities should be able to have a say in whether this type of development takes place, particularly as concerns about the construction, locations and cumulative impact of drill pads are yet to be assuaged by the Government,” says the committee’s report, Planning guidance on fracking.

In particular the committee recommends that the planning brokerage system “should extend its support to members of the public and organisations who wish to participate in the planning process to avoid overburdening mineral planning authorities.

“Limiting access is likely to increase opposition to individual fracking applications, thereby further overburdening mineral planning authorities.”

The report adds: “We recommend that the government establish an overarching single point of contact for fracking queries., which should host the ‘one-stop shop’ for fracking guidance and policy documents.

“The overarching body should encourage multi-agency working between the existing regulatory bodies.”

The committee also said it was also “disappointed” by the government’s decision to publish its 2018 Written Ministerial Statement on fracking before considering the committee’s recommendations.

In particular, the report raises concerns about “a contradiction between the spirit of the Localism Act 2011 and the 2018 Written Ministerial Statement on fracking planning policy which could unreasonably restrict local plans”. 

Reacting to the report, UK Onshore Oil & Gas (UKOOG) chief executive Ken Cronin said: “There are a number of areas highlighted by the Committee’s report which the industry has some sympathy with, in part around the role of the new regulator, funding of local authorities and the need to have a forum where the general public can access relevant guidance.

“However, we do not support the Committee’s recommendations opposing Government proposals on permitted development rights and national planning.

The report fails to address a main concern of both the industry and local communities, which is the fact that planning applications for even the simplest of wells now take up to 18 months to conclude and that many of the professional planning officers’ recommendations are ignored.”

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